Common Name: Bottlebrush buckeye
By Nathan McCullin
For the bottlebrush buckeye, Christmas arrives in July. Resting quite contently in one of the parking lot beds in front of the Garden Shop at Garden in the Woods, Aesculus parviflora, bottlebrush buckeye, blooms mid-July through mid-August. Known in the scientific community as Aesculus parviflora, this species shoots up panicles between its leaves that are nearly a foot long and almost 4 inches wide onto which 4 petaled flowers are attached. The panicles seemingly float amongst the foliage due to the pinkish white stamens that spill out of the center of each flower and create a whispy aura that encompasses the shrub. From a distance these large white panicles appear like candlesticks resting on the branches of a Christmas tree, truly arousing the feeling that Christmas has come in July.
This plant, like many others in the Hippocastanaceae family, has held its own for many years in the horticulture industry, providing an array of appeal due to its adaptability. Growing in the form of a large shrub, the bottlebrush buckeye is very suitable for planting in masses or clumps. Its versatility also allows it to become a very intriguing specimen and with its ability to thrive in the shade this shrub has become a landscaping staple. It is typically a wide-spreading, multi-stemmed shrub growing about ten feet in height and spreading just as much.
With its large palmately compound leaves, typically with five to seven dark green leaflets, this shrub’s foliage tends to soften the overall texture of the plant and counterbalace its large growth habits. In the fall, the leaves offer a bright yellow color that makes the shrub stick out like a bonfire in the night, an appropriate comparison to make when the weather is cool. The leaves emerge from terminal buds about 1/4" in size that rest on gray brown stems dotted with slightly raised light brown lenticels.
In late September, Aesculus parviflora begins to set its fruits, which come in the form of one to three-inch capsules that are smooth in texture and light brown in color. This plant tends to set more fruit in warmer situations, possibly due to the difference in growing seasons between southern and northern climates. Its versatility extends out of the visual realm, holding its own as a hardy shrub, growing well from zone four to zone eight. It is found growing wild along the eastern coast from Florida all the way up to the Carolinas, but has been used in landscapes as far north as Maine, surviving winters that approach -30 degrees Farenheit.
Whether you are creating a shrub
border, looking for a good understory plant, or searching for that perfect
specimen, Aesculus parviflora,
the bottlebrush buckeye, can meet your needs by providing constant appeal throughout the growing
season and lending its wide range of versatility in the landscape.
Resources: Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Michael Dirr